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  • Writer's pictureDimitrios Doutsios

Retrofit acoustic solutions for alternative working spaces

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Working from home, coworking spaces or coffee-shops has become the new trend. Yet, the indoor climate in those spaces is not always suitable for concentration and focus on working tasks or even for clear communication. Noise from patrons, food preparation, banging coffee grounds, moderate to loud music, workers having e-meetings or even other family members can lead to annoyance, lack of concentration, lack of privacy and reduced productivity. Noise cancelling headphones can be an interim solution but also has its inconveniences in terms of comfort and communication.

A way of overcoming the inconveniences of an indoor environment that is not designed for working, is to keep low reverberation times. This leads to improved indoor acoustic climate and enhances the experience of its customers and end users. Coffee drinking, socialising, collaborating or working individually becomes enjoyable. But, what is reverberation? Reverberation is the persistence of sound in a space after a sound source has stopped. Reverberation time is the time in seconds, taken for the sound to decay by 60dB after a sound source has stopped. We need to keep in mind that reverberation is different to an echo.

The size of the room and its use are important for achieving suitable reverberation times. Coffee-shops, coworking spaces or homes can have a diverse interior design. Installing or replacing the reflective interior surfaces with absorptive surfaces offers a great improvement in reverberation times and creates a soundscape that is good for repeat business and increased productivity. Factors that contribute to a pleasant and productive environment are:

  • lower background noise;

  • clarity of speech;

  • minimization of sound spillage;

  • warmth of music

Solutions for existing coffee-shops, coworking spaces and homes can be found through appropriate retrofitting works. These include installation of sound absorbing materials at ceilings, walls and floor. Such materials and devices dissipate sound energy as heat, instead of reflecting sound energy back to the source room. Studies and acoustic tests have shown that a pleasant acoustic environment in cafés results to improved client satisfaction. The same environment in coworking spaces or at home can lead to increased productivity and improved well-being.

The following audio recording examples are from a coffee-shop with and without acoustic treatment. The first recording is a clap with reflective interior finishes whereas the latter a clap with absorptive interior finishes.

Before treatment:

After treatment:

If you were to work for several hours in this environment, which scenario would you pick?

Let us know your thoughts.

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